Housing consumption in urban China: A comparative study of Beijing and Guangzhou

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The Chinese government has made repeated attempts to end the so-called welfare provision of housing so as to reduce the burden on the state and the individual work units. Development companies have been set up to undertake housing construction and the housing units sold as commodities; these are referred to as 'commodity housing'. The author conducts a comparative study of housing consumption in Beijing and Guangzhou, drawing upon two surveys of newly completed commodity housing conducted in 1996. In Beijing, which is dominated by the traditional socialist system of economic and social organisation, only a tiny portion of such housing is traded on the open market. In Guangzhou, where many of the market-oriented reform measures were first experimented with, the open market already accounts for a substantial proportion of the newly constructed stock. In both Beijing and Guangzhou, however, the work unit still constitutes the single most important buyer and distributor of commodity housing. Further, if the analysis is restricted to the subsidised sectors, which also include housing managed by the municipal housing bureau and resettlement housing, a comparison of the two samples reveals quite similar differential factors underlying housing consumption in the two cities, despite their difference in social and economic structure. The traditional redistributive system still exerts tremendous influence on housing consumption, even in cities renowned for their openness and market orientation. Certain differences in the results between the two cities are also revealed. For example, seniority is important only in Beijing, whereas professional and technical workers assume a special position only in Guangzhou. These differences point towards the importance of contextual considerations in the study of housing consumption in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1134
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2000

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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